The Problem With “The Problem With the Church Today…”

sad statueWe’ve all heard the complaints about “the church today”, haven’t we?

Perhaps we’ve even expressed some of them ourselves.

  • “The problem with the church today is no one wants to commit any more.”
  • “Today’s problems all come from a church that puts style before substance.”
  • “The modern church wants to be fat and happy, they don’t care about anything but themselves.”
  • “Our church may be small, but at least we’re preaching the Word, unlike most churches today.”

Those are all direct quotes I’ve collected online in the last few weeks.

None of them are from nonbelievers or average church-goers, of course. They’re all from pastors and other church leaders.

Based on these complaints and so many others like them, I’ve come to three conclusions:

 

1. No one thinks they’re the problem with the church today

It’s always the other guy’s fault, right?

Very seldom, if ever, do I see quotes like those listed above, followed by serious self-assessment and personal repentance. Oh sure, some of them will throw in the obligatory “search me, oh God…” verse, but the tone of everything is always how bad every other church has become. Or how sinful the community around us has become, as evidenced by the fact that they refuse to throng to our church to hear us complain about them. So we soldier on, convinced we’re the righteous remnant.

Yes, the church has real problems today. But if you’re a Christian – especially if you’re a church leader – complaining about the church without taking a serious look at yourself and your church is like complaining about your reflection in the mirror – and blaming the mirror!

“Them” is US!

In case you’re you’re wondering where my own self-assessment is, this post is just too small for that. It takes a book to even scratch the surface. Literally, a book. Check out The Grasshopper Myth for a lifetime’s worth of “what’s wrong with me?!” self-assessment – and a lot of hope, too.

 

2. The church has always had these problems

When people complain that today’s church services aren’t as good as they should be, that our worship is often more about entertainment than participation, that the preaching is often shallow, that discipleship is sometimes non-existent… I have to reluctantly agree.

When they long for the days when we did church better than we do it today… I wholeheartedly disagree.

We’ve never done church better than this. 

Sure there have been pockets of greatness. There still are today.

And there are always good, healthy churches to be found of all shapes and sizes. I’ve been in a lot of them and I pastor one.

But the less-than-ideal church service is nothing new.

Even the Apostle Paul complained that the church services in Corinth often did “more harm than good.”

In fact, that’s why we have many of the New Testament letters. Paul, John and others wrote long and strong to churches and their leaders about their need to correct the mistakes they were making. Sometimes, the horrific sins they were proud of committing. (Helloooo Corinth!)

Imagine how much shorter the New Testament would be if the early church had been the ideal place we like to imagine.

The problems with the church are nothing new. But in a way, that’s good news. Because, despite 2,000 years of screw-ups, the church keeps moving forward.

It makes me think someone other than us must be in charge of this thing.

 

3. The doers seldom complain, while the complainers aren’t doing much

There seems to be a direct inverse relationship between those who complain about the state of the church and those who are working to change the state of the church.

The harder they work, the less they complain. While those who complain don’t seem to be doing much to change things. As I said in a previous post, We Can Whine About the New Generation Or We Can Minister to Them – But We Can’t Do Both.

 

Let’s Do Church Better

The church hasn’t gotten worse. It’s always been like this. A mix of good, bad and indifferent. But it keeps moving forward, anyway. Just like Jesus said it would.

So yes, there have always been bad churches and bad church services.

The answer for bad churches today is the same as it’s always been. Let’s do church better. Let’s learn from our mistakes. Let’s re-invest ourselves in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

There’s never been a perfect church – or a perfect era of church history.

God is the same as he’s always been. So are people.

Complaining changes nothing.

Doing the essentials better is all that matters.

And any church, of any size, budget or denomination, can do that.

 

So what do you think? Can we agree that the answer to bad church is to do better church?

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(Sad Statue photo from Tim Green • Flickr • Creative Commons license)

6 thoughts on “The Problem With “The Problem With the Church Today…””

  1. As a small church Pastor, whom is struggling with an unhealthy church, and desiring to see change, your article really touched me. I have been guilty of pointing out the ‘joy boys’, saying how far the church has slipped, and compromised, getting the people all “amen-ign”.. but its all really…blah, blah, blah. Your article really opened up my eyes, not that I am totally focused on the wrong of ‘others’, but I must get to a place of the log in my own eye, and the log in our ministry that is tripping us up, and keeping us from being the healthy body God has planned for us. I desperately want to get your book, and am looking forward to ordering it soon! Thanks, brother for all your words, they have gotten me through a lot lately!

  2. Finally, a sane observation and a great assessment of present day reality concerning the church. Great analogy of the New Testament Churches, and the reason those letters were written. What is the name of your book? I’d like to read it as well, if it is written in the same style as this article.

  3. I think the problem with the church is that often we don’t know what the problem with the church is. I know that’s true of my own church a lot of the time. So all I can do is to continue to preach faithfully, and more faithfully than I have in the past, and try to do the things I know we should be doing better, just like you said.

    1. Great point, Chris. Assumptions are dangerous things. When we know what’s wrong we should correct it. But too often we’re just assuming we know thing we don’t necessarily know for sure.

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